Gold Rush roots and pioneering spirit underscore city's diverse culture
01/09/2012 1:26 PM
10/11/2013 5:49 PM
For some people, moving 30 minutes away from shopping options can be a significant lifestyle change, but McQuillen said she has several clients relocating from high-density areas in Southern California and the Central Valley. Many are buying homes before they retire because of the current attractive prices. The number of active-adult communities, for people age 55 and older, she said, has increased in the area in the past five years, to about a half dozen. “There are a lot of professional artists and writers here, and telecommuters are a huge chunk of the market,” she said. Many live in surrounding communities such as Pollock Pines, which has heavy snow, and Camino, which has less. Pleasant Valley has rolling savannahs, vineyards, apple orchards, forests and older homes that are being renovated. Residents south of Pleasant Valley and east of Highway 49 are in the vineyard areas, and several homes are owned by doctors, veterinarians, pharmacists and chemists. Many residents grew up in Placerville. Others are new families with a desire to leave urban areas and who are attracted by the city’s quality schools. The crime rate in Placerville is low, and gangs aren’t a problem, McQuillen said. “We have a gang task force — one guy who works part time,” she said. The pace of life in Placerville is slower. People know their neighbors, and nobody locks their doors, she said. Placerville is not typically a first-time buyers’ market. “We have move-up buyers purchasing their second and third homes,” McQuillen said. Prices range from $100,000 to $125,000 for homes above the snow line, less than $200,000 for fixer-uppers and $400,000 to $600,000 for mid-level homes. Cabins on forest property are priced from $60,000 to $100,000. Typical listing prices for single-family homes range from $272,989 to $919,472. Many properties in the Placerville area meet the requirements for U.S. Department of Agriculture home loans, which were originally designed to help people get into farms in an agricultural county or an area of a county designated as an agricultural district. “That’s allowed a lot of people to get into homes here,” McQuillen said. “People don’t realize we have it. It’s a big plus.” According to the Department of Agriculture website, the loans are backed by the agency, offer 100 percent, no-money-down financing and can be used to buy a new home or refinance an existing mortgage. “Goods and services are readily available, but they’re just not right around the corner,” McQuillen said. For health care, Marshall Hospital is expanding, and the Miwuk Indian Reservation walk-in medical center is open to anyone. Placerville has become a good place to dine, with restaurant cuisine that includes American, Mexican, Asian and Thai. “People come here to eat and in the process discover us,” McQuillen said. McQuillen has noticed more businesses looking at moving into the area, including big-box stores. Although Main Street used to offer primarily restaurants and antiques stores, new retail shops have opened, providing a balance of merchandise. For recreation, residents and visitors enjoy Apple Hill, Main Street events, hiking and bicycling on the El Dorado Trail, horseback rides on all kinds of topography, whitewater rafting, historical spots and proximity to ski areas. “It’s about an hour and change to Kirkwood Mountain Resort or Truckee,” McQuillen said. Several nearby estate wineries allow visitors to taste wine and talk to the person who owns the winery and makes the wine. “It’s like Napa in the ’60s and ’70s,” McQuillen said. Wineries are in the Fair Play District, Sierra Foothills, Pleasant Valley and Gold Hill areas. Schools, part of Placerville Union School District, tend to have small classrooms. Nearby Schnell School District offers Garden of Learning, a pilot program in which youngsters grow and sell produce. Teachers come from all over the United States to check out the program. Tourism is by far the largest business in Placerville, which offers a variety of events that attract visitors and residents alike. They include the Third Saturday Art Walk and the annual Wagon Train, a re-enactment of the move west in the 1800s. On Monday, Placerville will present its annual Halloween event, Trick or Treat on Main Street, which attracts a group of people from Japan every year, Brent-Bumb said. Participants dress up in costumes and go trick-or-treating along with the youngsters. The city’s Festival of Lights on Nov. 25 will include the lighting of Christmas trees along Highway 50, which began in the 1960s to honor the troops. It was discontinued for three years, but a community organization raised funds to pay for the materials and bring the tradition back. “It’s always fun to come to Placerville,” Brent-Bumb said. “But you don’t have to come just for an event.”
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